How can we change cities with the "theory of small deeds"?
On the last day of May in “CECH” cultural space in Minsk experts from different fields of urban development talked, argued, and agreed with ideas of how to make our cities such as we, citizens, want to see them.
The "EuroBelarus" Information Service documented the most interesting expert opinions.
Nadzeja Il’kevich, the producer of "The City" show, believes that there is no algorithm of how to make the city better. But we must think what we can do and start doing it. Nadzeja Il’kevich says it's important to cultivate responsibility for the environment in which we live, as well as to invite local communities to address the problems they face.
- Everyone wants to live in a comfortable, friendly, interesting city, where no one disturbs anyone. A solution to the problem doesn’t need to be creative. But it should be discussed with those people for whom it is also a problem, - said Nadzeja Il’kevich.
She believes that everyone can change something for the better in his or her city. But it is not always possible. Here's why:
- All our public spaces are somewhat official: thus, Kastrychnitskaya Square doesn’t feel like kissing, communicating, and feeding pigeons. And we witness a trend where urban residents want a small space for themselves where they could communicate and trust each other. Many projects don’t happen because people don’t trust each other.
Producer of the show "The City" gave examples of when the public and business don’t trust activists, and people don’t trust the government.
- Success stories of urban development always start from grass-roots initiatives, - Nadzeja Il’kevich said.
Dzmitry Bibikau from the Minsk urban platform told about his community:
- I believe that everyone can change their environment, but there is a problem: apart from common sense of professionals there is also common sense of the residents – very diverse...
According to him, now his platform has to be educational, because people are not very experienced in urban planning.
Editor of Citydog.by online magazine about Minsk Siarhei Saharau pointed out that our society still clearly distinguishes between the capital and the regions, where the latter is not perceived as a fully developed unit. Nevertheless, many people realize that their city should be changed, even if at the level of mentality by making it less dependent on the center.
- Our main objective in the regions lies in resources and innovations that we can bring there to show – explained director of the Fund "Interaction" Ivan Shchadranok. - There are positive results when we see that not only people change, but also the approaches of local authorities in solving problems change.
- When we talk about urbanism, we should think about small towns with sincere approach and people who want to change something. And it is on these small spaces that make it much easier to test a certain idea, - Ivan Shchadranok summed up.
Besides, the "theory of small deeds" works: when the initiative appears with time it attracts more and more people.
Ivan Krautsou, who represents the architectural "Bureau 35", is not so optimistic about the situation.
- Rather low level of discussion at architectural forums makes me sad. We often say that we need to discuss problems together; however, in my opinion, now people are not quite ready for a discussion about cities. Until residents have a set system of values in their head, they cannot formulate adequate requirements to professionals, - Ivan Krautsou is convinced. - After all, people still don’t understand what they need. On the one hand, they need comfortable housing, on the other hand - cheap panels. On the one hand, people want to save parks; on the other –a well-developed shopping structure and entertainment.
Ivan Krautsou believes that city cannot be changed with the help of buildings. The big problem lies in a power vertical.
- The building itself – whether it’s a business center, a hotel, or an ice rink – doesn’t solve the problem and is not the way to develop cities. A demand for ice rinks should be formed first, - Nadzeja Il’kevich agreed.
There is another problem: the general plan of the city, which is only adopted for one year and is not a development strategy. And until strategic aspects are included into the plan, numerous initiatives of creating bike paths and local spaces will meet a lot of technical obstacles.
- "The theory of small deeds" can break the whole structure, - Siarhei Saharau is convinced.
So far, complaints remain the only effective way to inform the authorities about a problem. And we need to move away from complaints to proposals, experts say in this regard. However, here a new obstacle from the Belarusian reality appears: approving proposals by authorities.
The public discussion "The City of the future: The best scenario" was the final in a series of lectures of the Flying University and the Center for European Transformation. However, this is not the end but only a break. New season with relevant topics and experienced experts is ahead.